Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What happened on America Street?

Posted by Paul Bowers on Wed, Jul 20, 2011 at 5:10 PM

On Tuesday afternoon, 36 hours after a North Charleston man was shot on the east side of downtown Charleston, hardly anybody could be found outside on the street where he died — unless you went a little farther north.

Charleston Police Department responded to a 3 a.m. call Monday morning to find Brian Holmes, son of S.C. Baptist Convention President Sonny Holmes, shot and unresponsive in the driver’s seat of his 2011 Hyundai Sonata. The car was facing the wrong way on America Street, and police closed off the section of the street between Amherst and Reid streets for hours while they looked for clues to the cause of his death.

Charleston police spokesman Charles Francis said he could not give comment on what might have brought Holmes to the neighborhood that night; he would only say the investigation was ongoing. Tuesday afternoon, there were two police cars and a bicycle cop in the area. Francis acknowledged that the area around America Street “has a history,” but he said that most of the calls the department responds to in that area today are for relatively minor offenses like disorderly conduct or vandalism.

I went to the neighborhood looking for people who might have seen something, and no one would let me quote them or use their names. One man said he feared retribution if word got out that he was talking; another warned me that people would think I was with the police and clam up. A group of six men sitting on a back porch said the residential area along America Street was divided into northern and southern “cliques,” with Lee Street splitting the two parts. There is, in fact, an undeveloped strip of no-man’s-land just south of Lee Street.

“We don’t associate with those guys over there,” another man said. He added that he does not even go south of Martin Park, which is on Lee Street, during the day, much less in the middle of the night.

Finally, a woman on her front porch told me she did not want to speak to reporters — for the simple reason that no reporters had asked her questions when African-American men were murdered in her neighborhood.

“Nobody comes around when a black boy is murdered,” she said.

The homicide is the seventh for the year in Charleston. Arrests have been made in four.

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